PLANT pathologist Dr Kevin Moore is warning growers that complacency presents the biggest threat to northern chickpea crops this year.
Dr Moore (pictured, right), of the NSW DPI at Tamworth, said the first thing growers of any crop should do is make sure they have good-quality planting seed, because getting crops off to a good start is dependent on the quality of the seed.
"If they plant dodgy seed, crops will get off to a bad start," Dr Moore said.
Growers should source seed that germinated well - more than 70% - and had little evidence of moulds or fungal pathogens. Despite a potentially low incidence of seed-borne diseases this year, Dr Moore advocates continued testing of seed samples.
"It's good insurance for growers using their own seed, which has the equivalent value of about $600 a tonne," he said.
He recommended treating all planting seed with a registered fungicide; this protected the plant from seed- and soil- borne pathogens and was relatively cheap.
Dr Moore delivered a paper to a GRDC Update at Goondiwindi that outlined managing chickpea diseases in the 2013 season. For some diseases, such as Phytophthora root rot, there were no in-crop measures and growers needed to minimise risk before planting. For viruses, which in some 2012 chickpea crops caused losses up to 60%, the only strategies were agronomic:
- Retain standing stubble: Where possible, use precision agriculture to plant between stubble rows.
- Plant on time and at the optimal seeding rate: Resulting in a uniform stand and early canopy closure.
- Ensure adequate plant nutrition.
- Control in-crop, fence-line and fallow weeds.
- Avoid planting adjacent to lucerne stands.
- In 2012, the main chickpea virus was beet western yellows virus (BWYV): This was also found in every canola and mustard crop sampled in 2012. Consider growing chickpeas away from canola and mustard.
- There is no evidence seed treatment or foliar sprays with insecticides are effective in reducing losses caused by viruses.
The other major disease concerns for 2013 chickpea crops were Ascochyta blight, Phytophthora root rot and Botrytis grey mould. Ascochyta blight was not a concern in the northern grains region in 2012 - except in Central Queensland.
"However, the pathogen has been endemic in much of the region since 1998 and, if conditions favour the disease, it will pose a serious threat to susceptible varieties."
One thing growers could do now was make sure they understood their Ascochyta risk.
Dr Moore said chickpeas had become a crucial part of cereal-based farming systems in the GRDC northern region. In 2010, the area planted to chickpeas was 480,000 hectares but the crop was hit hard by disease and in 2011 the planting area halved. In 2012, the area was back up to just under 500,000ha.
For information, visit grdc.com.au or to view video and download audio, visit grdc.com.au.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.